LINCOLN — Nebraska threw the football 378 times last season, by far the highest number in Taylor Martinez's three years as starting quarterback.
Martinez is on board with the idea of even more passes next season.
“I think we'll be throwing the ball a lot more in this upcoming fall, just because our receivers are so talented,” he said. “Any of them can catch the ball and score on any play.”
Martinez has watched his passing yards go from 1,631 to 2,089 to 2,871 since taking over the starting job in 2010. The NU passing game then got some more work than usual during spring practices.
In the Red-White scrimmage Saturday, the trio of Martinez and backups Ron Kellogg and Tommy Armstrong showed off their accuracy by completing a combined 24 of 29 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns.
Martinez wouldn't complain about throwing more as a senior after lifting his completion rate to a career-high 62 percent last season, when Nebraska ranked fifth in the Big Ten at 207.4 passing yards per game.
“Yeah, of course I'd rather throw the ball 30 times a game,” Martinez said Wednesday on a Big Ten teleconference. “I think it'd be awesome to go out there and just throw the ball around and get the football to those guys and let them do their thing.”
Nebraska returns four players who caught 24 or more passes last season — wide receivers Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa, and I-back Ameer Abdullah. Although the Huskers are replacing Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed at tight end, assistant coach Barney Cotton said Saturday that those competing at the position benefited this spring from NU's extensive work on the passing game.
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Martinez said Nebraska also did a good job with pass protection through the spring, but head coach Bo Pelini said an offensive line that returns three starters — led by All-Big Ten right guard Spencer Long — can get better.
“As a unit, it's a solid unit,” Pelini said. “Guys have experience. I think there's tremendous potential there. But you can't become satisfied. You can't say, 'OK, we have veterans here and we have some guys coming back, and we're just going to wait and roll it out there when the season starts.'
“There's a lot of room for growth and potential to get better, and I think our guys have a pretty good understanding of that.”
The same goes for Martinez, who led the Big Ten last season in total offense. He completed 64.7 percent of his passes with four interceptions in 10 wins last season, compared with 56 percent with eight interceptions in the four losses.
But Pelini said the ceiling is still high for his quarterback.
“I think the best is yet to come with Taylor, and that's saying a lot because he's accomplished a lot,” Pelini said. “He's had a heck of a career up to this point. From what I saw from him this spring, he's a better football player now than, by far, what he was last fall.”
Whether it's by throwing or running the football — NU ran it about 64 percent of the time in 2012 — Martinez said he expects “huge strides” from the Husker offense, too. He said offensive coordinator Tim Beck has become more confident as a play-caller and has put some new plays in the arsenal.
“I think we're going to be really difficult to stop,” Martinez said.
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